It’s been fifteen years since former Australian swimmer, Daniel Kowalski, won his last Olympic medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney yet many regard him still, as one of their all-time favourite swimmers.
Daniel’s passion for swimming has not waned and today, he continues to impact the sport through his role as General Manager of the Australian Swimmers Association (ASA).
Daniel is an honorary ‘Thriver’, sharing our Sydney office as part of Thrive’s sponsorship of the ASA. We chatted to Daniel about his role at ASA, the great work that organisation does and its involvement in the lead up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio:
You’ve been the General Manager of the ASA for almost five years, how did the opportunity to get involved present itself?
The former GM actually organised a meeting with me asking if I could vet a few names they were considering. After chatting for about 45 minutes, I liked the sound of what the job entailed and hinted that I might apply. . . and I guess the rest is history!
What does your role consist of?
It’s a very multi faceted role and has changed considerably since the London Olympics. Most importantly, we are the point of contact for the swimmers, so no issue is too big or too small and I work on the premise that if I can’t help, I’ll find someone who can! As one of nine voting stakeholders, our organisation is responsible for working with Swimming Australia, the Governing body, to negotiate on the swimmer agreement which includes calculating and distributing funding and developing criteria on who is eligible for the funding. I also serve on the High Performance Committee and am an advisor to the Participation Committee. We have just taken over the swimmers’ appearances process and developed a new program called “Beyond the Black Line”, a clinic for teenage swimmers where we use current and recently retired swimmers to educate the clinic attendees about growing up following the black line. We are very excited about delivering this program.
How does the ASA work to support swimmers during their careers?
This is definitely an area of growth and importance for the ASA. Typically the various state institutes and the academies, work with swimmers through their Personal Excellence Program. In addition, we have started developing a suite of programs from business mentoring to formal relationships with RTO’s and traineeship providers. We recognise that there is a gap for those not focussed on the tertiary pathway. As I am the sole employee at ASA, we obviously don’t have great resources so I always utilise our networks to ensure we maximise opportunities.
What parts of your job do you enjoy the most?
The behind the scenes – witnessing all the effort the swimmers put in, the attention to detail and then their development as young men and women. Obviously, I enjoy watching the outcome but am more interested in the process.
In the lead up to Rio, how involved is the ASA in an athlete’s preparation for the Games?
Our main objective is to support what we call the swimmers DTE, ‘Daily Training Environment’. Everyone’s needs are different so I just make sure communication lines are open and they are getting what they need to maximise all their opportunities. Sadly, not everyone can make the Olympic and Paralympic team, so I play a large role in ensuring these swimmers have the support they need.
Any tips on who to watch out for in the Olympics?
I am loath to mention any one swimmer because I think they are all worth looking out for. They are all unique with amazing stories – we just need to get more stories out there!